Online Education in the United States - 2006 Sloan Survey Released

Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, is the fourth annual report sponsored by the Sloan Foundation. Solely covering Higher Education, these surveys are intended to "answer some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education".

While the focus is very much about online learning courses, rather than the broader view of learning that is supported by any use of ICT, the report is definitely worth a look, if only for the scale of the survey. The report covers responses from over 2,200 colleges and universities. This leads to some big figures - nearly 3.2 million students were taking at least one online course in Autumn 2005. Also, an increase of 800,000 additional online students is more than double that found in previous studies. Thus, contrary to expectations, enrollment is not starting to plateau.

The survey also looked at the profile of online learners, with the majority being undergraduates, which reflects the overall student body. It also assessed what different types of institutions were offering. Essentially, the larger institutions are more likely to be delivering fully online programmes (about two-thirds). This compares to only one-sixth of the smallest institutions offering fully online programs. Given the investment in infrastructure alone, this is perhaps not surprising.

The report also addresses perceptions of quality amongst academics, as well as the potential barriers to widespread adoption of online education.

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